Season 2, Episode 7 - British & American Differences with Joel Wood

Jun 27 / Charlie Baxter

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By Charlie Baxter

Season 2

What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie invites Joel Wood from the YouTube Channel Joel & Lia on the show to talk about cultural differences between British and American people based on the various trips he has made to America documenting pop culture on his YouTube Channel with Lia.
This conversation will help any English learner better understand the differences we think British and American people have in terms of cultural identity along with some accent training in part 3 thanks to Joel's training in the acting world!

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Transcript of S2:E7 Pt. 1 Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome to the British English podcast, the show all about British culture and British English with your host, Charlie Baxter. That is me. Today, I'm very excited to introduce or perhaps reintroduce you to Joel from the YouTube channel, Joel and Lia. Now we explain what Joel's content focuses on in the conversation. But I just wanted to say that I got Joel on here because he has been documenting cultural differences, particularly between the UK and America, in a really fun and entertaining way for quite some time now. So he's got a wealth of knowledge to help us better understand what it is to be British and what he finds different about American culture. So strap in and enjoy a conversation between Joel and myself.

Charlie:
Hello, Joel, how are you doing?

Joel:
Hello, I'm good, thank you. How are you?

Charlie:
I'm very well. I'm very well, thank you. Yes, all the better for seeing you. That's a phrase that my grandmother used to say, actually. Yeah. Quite a nice phrase, isn't it?

Joel:
It is. That's quite a classic. I'd say I would associate that with the older generation. Like you say, your grandma, maybe my parents' generation, but I've never really thought about the true meaning behind it. It's just something that people say,

Charlie:
Yeah, it is a heartwarming one, hopefully for most people.

Joel:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm feeling better for being in your presence. That's a nice thing to say. So thank you for saying that to me.

Charlie:
You're very welcome. You're very welcome. Yeah. So how long's it been for us since we last spoke?

Joel:
I think it was about three or four years ago. Yeah, it's been a long time. Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah, I'd say so, yeah. So we did a collaboration on our YouTube channels, didn't we. So your YouTube channel is called?

Joel:
It's called 'Joel and Lia'. At the time, I think it was called 'Being British with Joel and Lia' and now it's just 'Joel and Lia'. But we did yeah collab with you and Harry on 'Real English With Real Teachers', met up, filmed a few videos. Had a great time, but it was in public. It wasn't a bar-slash-pub and we were setting up cameras and microphones. I think the people there were a bit like, what's going on?

Charlie:
It was a bit odd. And I felt like we had potentially forced you into it because we went with the mindset of, you know, we've got to make the most of this. We've taken the day off our teaching. But I think you guys were like, maybe, oh, should we get to know them before we agree to make any material?

Charlie:
So I finally thought after think- after forcing you to do, I was, God did they- did they want this?

Joel:
No. Do you know what? You shouldn't worry about it. We definitely don't have any thoughts about it. And I can't quite remember. But I do think it sounds like us. We're very- I mean, you guys have real jobs where you teach English. Lia and I work full time YouTube. So we're like we've got all the time in the world. Whereas like you said, you're like, oh, I we kind of need to, like, make it worth it for coming. I knew- you were back from Germany, weren't you? So it was a big deal.

Charlie:
That's right. Yeah. Yeah, maybe. Yeah. That's probably why. So you're full time YouTubers and your channel is focussed primarily on culture, which is the big reason why I was like, oh God, I've got to get you on the channel or on the podcast, right. And so what kind of culture are you focussing on?

Joel:
So our main channel, the 'Joel and Lia' channel. It traditionally sort of started. I've got a background in linguistics. I studied English linguistics at university, so we started making a few videos similar to what you do, teaching sort of English or synonyms or phrases and things like that, but gradually segued more into the British culture side of things. Hence why we were called 'Being British'. But over time we realised that lots of people were interested in what we thought about America and to seemingly very similar cultures. But they're actually very different. And there's so many differences between people from the UK and people from America. So we just chat about those things and that is what our channel looks like now. If you go on our channel, it's all to do with America and England basically.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah. I was having a look and there's so many interesting videos like you really do your thumbnails and your titles very well. I'm very keen to click on all of those. It's good.

Joel:
Well thank you. That's working then. Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. So as you said, two seemingly similar cultures but actually very different. And because of that you've been able to make so much content about American and British differences. Maybe we can we can get into that. But before we do, so, you're from the UK, obviously. Where where were you born and where were you? Where were you raised?

Joel:
I was born in Cambridge, but I didn't spend long there. My parents then moved further down south to Southampton, which is right on the south coast of England. So my existence is purely been around the south. All my family are based in the South. I have maybe a few in the Midlands, but no North and family members, sadly.

Charlie:
Ok, OK. Down in the South. Yeah. Yeah. And can you remember much of Cambridge?

Joel:
No, no, not really. I went back there in 2020 just before the pandemic started, so, got- that was my last trip. I went to Cambridge and explored it. I don't remember any of it, but it's a lovely city and I could imagine moving there one day. I was like maybe I should move back to Cambridge because it's really nice out there.

Charlie:
And so I'm I'm from Surrey and I want you to try and if you will explain what a Surrey boy is to to most people in the UK. Could you do that for me?

Joel:
Yeah, I could do it. I mean, I don't want to be rude.

Charlie:
I'm very comfortable with the stereotypes. I think it's good for people to bet- to better, better understand. Like what people assume of people within the UK when they meet them, and I think that a good start for me, is to judge me before I start judging other people.

Joel:
Well, I will say that whilst we weren't recording, I guessed that Charlie was either from Hertfordshire or Surrey, and it turns out it was Surrey. So got it right the second time.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Joel:
And the only reason I think that is you're very well spoken. Your- you speak kind of- I guess this job is perfect for you because I imagine people that learn English as a second language would love to sound like you. You sound like the typical British man, I think. So, in my head, I was like, Surrey. 'Cause Surrey, they're very well-to-do there. They tend to be quite well-off in Surrey. So they grow up well with good education. But the stereotype, the sort of negative stereotype. So, Surrey boys, I think they tend to be a bit wannabe Londoners. Firstly, the- most Surrey boys would be like, Yeah, I'm from London. It's like, are you really or are you from Surrey? Because if you're from London, that makes you cool. If you're from Surrey, maybe a little less cool. And also I would associate Surrey with boarding schools. So lots of money, staying a boarding school, very posh. And that's not what- this is not the vibes you give off, just to be clear. But that is what I assume Surrey boys to be like.

Charlie:
Most people, are instantly like 'Private school. You went to a prep school, obviously, Charlie'. I'm very- I don't know why I'm happy, I guess just because it's the contrary. But I went to a state school and I'm very proud of the fact that I went to state school. It was a lovely state school, I'll add. And my dad was a teacher at a private school, and I would go to a lot of their trips and stuff. But my parents got lucky on the- on real estate. That was that was the only reason that we're in Surrey, basically.

Joel:
Exactly. It's just as expensive as London now. Some parts.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah. Unbelievable. OK, so that's that's a good assumption. Yeah. I would, I would guess that that's what people think of Surrey people. Is there a stereotype of Southampton people.

Joel:
I'm not sure. I- well because Southampton's in Hampshire so I'm a Hampshire boy. But I think to be honest, I think you and I probably sound very similar and probably have similar experiences. So that's why it's not fair really to judge people on where they're from in the UK, because I suppose most of us from the south kind of sound very similar. But no, because I think the Hampshire stereotype is that we all sound like farmers and for anyone that doesn't know what that sounds like, I guess it would be like a Bristol accent, which is like they sound a bit like that and they they have hard 'R's. So instead of saying car, there's a car and things like that. And I don't sound like that. I sound like this.

Charlie:
Very good. Yeah. Pulling from your accent training through your acting.

Joel:
Yes. Yeah. Well, I went to drama school, trained as an actor and then YouTube has sort of taken over from that. I'm not the best at accents, but thank you. That's very kind.

Charlie:
I was trying to do an accent this week for a little episode I did of my imaginary scenes that I'm creating of a little pub conversation. So-.

Joel:
Oh nice!

Charlie:
I've always wanted to record normal conversations that Brits are having in there in the pub. But audio is normally atrocious and the conversation would get a bit stale, I think, if people knew that they were being recorded. So I've been trying to recreate some sort of fictitious scenarios and I've been putting on a really bad East London accent and and overdoing a really toffy* kind of posh accent. And that was the only thing that I seem to be able to do. But I'd love to be able to do them. So maybe we'll talk about accents towards the end of this. But, um, yeah, as you were saying about like the British way of being- or sorry, the the Surrey stereotype and being slightly posh. Let's let's go across the Atlantic and look at some of the American stereotypes. What would you- what would you go to straight away like as a- as an obvious place to start with that you think is what people think of as America?

Joel:
Hmm. Now, I think, I mean, there's so much but my go to first one is just friendliness. And I feel like there is a general stereotype that Brits are very polite people and maybe Americans, maybe are slightly less polite. But for me, it's been the complete opposite. Where- whereas, where I think that if you come to London, for example, on holiday, you might find that people are maybe a little bit colder. People don't really talk to you. They don't really make eye contact. Whereas going to America and from my experience, no matter really where you go in America, people tend to be very friendly and they talk to you even if you are a stranger, they greet you when you walk into shops and they just tend to be a lot more friendly.

Charlie:
And they- did you find that they liked your accent?

Joel:
Yeah, I think it really helps having a British accent in America. There are some miscommunications sometimes. For example, the word water is a common one. Americans don't tend to pronounce the T. Maybe it's a D like water. So if you say a water, they're like they don't know what that is. But equally, I think they find it charming. So that's good.

Charlie:
Yeah, I completely agree with what you've said. I had to adopt 'water' kind of approach when I was living- because I was living in Ohio. I don't know if I ever told you that.

Joel:
No, I didn't know that.

Charlie:
I lived in Columbus for about a year and a half. And so it was really like through America, I feel like.

Joel:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Joel:
And you must have had lots of those instances then, of- of miscommunications or things like that.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah. I remember CVS, the pharmacy, whenever you walked in, they'd always be so friendly to you instantly. And they've got this different culture in the shops of having somebody greet you. We don't have that in the UK, do we?

Joel:
No. You're lucky if you get anyone saying hello to you as you walk in and it tends to, yeah, be a very American thing. No matter what store you walk into, like you said, whether it's a pharmacy, whether it's a clothing store, whether it's high end or whether it's a quite a cheap clothing store, they tend to have a host or someone greeting you as you come in, which personally I don't like because I think- I feel like it puts pressure on me to buy something. And I don't know if it's the Britishness in me where I'm suddenly like, oh, no, I'm being watched. They're now expecting me to buy something, whereas they're probably just thinking I'm just being friendly. I'm just saying hello. If you need any help, let me know. But to me, I, I'm just like, please just ignore me. I just want to walk in and have a look and then leave.

Charlie:
I think that's- I think you've exampled a good difference there, we don't like to be bothered or we don't like to bother people, do we?

Joel:
Yes. Yeah, exactly. We don't want-.

Charlie:
In my opinion. I guess you're sharing the same opinion, but I don't want to put words in other British people's mouths. But I feel like if we're inconveniencing people, then that's that's not good.

Joel:
No, definitely. I 100 percent agree. And I think that is also why we're known for saying sorry quite a lot. We're very apologetic. So if someone sort of gets in your way and you're trying to squeeze past, you'll end up being the one saying, sorry, sorry, sorry, I just need to get through, sorry. Whereas Americans would just be like, excuse me, and they would move out of the way and you'd move through without- there'd be no apologising in that situation. Whereas I feel like we're quite apologetic because we don't want to bother anyone or inconvenience anyone.

Charlie:
Exactly. Yeah. Erm, so do you feel like you noticed any differences in the people that you met in America and the way that you would interact with them. Like outside of business and retail and stuff? Like, the friends that you made and the connections that you had, did you- did you see any difference in the way that you communicate with them and like what they like to talk about? What they would necessarily focus on other than, you know, British people do?

Joel:
Well, I feel like, from the American friends that I have, they were very easy to make friends with. Firstly, the interaction was very simple. They're very open. And whereas in the UK, I feel like you need a chance. You need something in common to be able to make friends with someone. So you either need to bump into each other regularly every day for weeks before you can start talking or it's through a friend of a friend or 'Oh, I know that person and you know that person. Therefore, let's be friends'.

Joel:
Whereas in America I feel like you can just make friends with a stranger or someone you've only met a couple of times. And I feel like they're very open to conversation topics as well. So this might be going off on a tangent. I feel like as Brits we know that we never really talk about money and we don't really like talking about politics. We sort of steer clear of anything that is sort of a contentious point. Whereas in America I feel like they are a lot more open and that makes them easier to talk to, I think, because they're- they tend to come across. Yeah, like an open book, as opposed to a closed book.

Charlie:
Yeah, I agree. That's making me think of, um, there's a TikTok account. I think I've said this before on this podcast. Apologies if you're hearing this twice, listener, but there's a TikTok account in America where this guy goes up to really fast or really nice cars. And he says, what do you do for a living? Have you seen that at all?

Joel:
Yeah, I've seen that. Yeah, it's great.

Charlie:
And I don't think that that would work in the UK.

Joel:
They would be like mind your own business.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah. Any thoughts on why?

Joel:
I think Americans are- maybe it's to do with the American dream. In my head, that's what it's to do with. That the American dream is that anyone can come to the USA and make a living for themselves, can go above and beyond, they can achieve everything they've ever dreamt of, money wise, fame, success, popularity, whatever it is, everyone has the equal opportunity to do that. And I think because of that, people are very proud of their achievements. And they're like, I came from nothing and now I earn a million pounds per year. And with that I've just bought a brand new car and I've done this and look how well I've done. And I think other Americans clap them and they're like, well done. You've done so well. That's so inspiring. Whereas in the UK, we kind of view that to be very arrogant and boastful. If someone was to say, I earn this much money and I've got this car, we'd be like, why are you boasting about that? Like, don't talk about that. That's- it's not coming across very well. And I just think it's completely different attitudes to success and wealth in the US.

Charlie:
Yeah, agreed. What about the, um, the class-based system that we have? Do you think that has anything to do with the awkwardness of maybe having more money than somebody else?

Joel:
Yeah, potentially. I mean, I was baffled when I found out that America doesn't really have this class-based system where kind of everyone is kind of on an equal footing or they might do to some extent, they might have the richer people and the poorer people, but there's no class-based system. Whereas in the UK there's kind of a very clear divide of that person's working class, this person's middle class, that person's very upper class from years ago. But it still seems to have its place today. Sadly, I don't think it should be there, but I think it is there.

Charlie:
Ok, so I might probe even further for your own personal life. So I noticed on social media that you were comfortable talking about your sexuality, and I was wondering if you have noticed a difference in the gay community in the UK versus America, at all?

Joel:
Well, I'm not the biggest expert on being gay in America because I don't live there. And I don't have- I don't think I have any gay American friends, but obviously I have an American audience on YouTube. So when I came out online, lots of my experience was with my American audience. So I can sort of talk about how I think the perceptions might be a bit different. Firstly, I was a bit more scared to come out, sort of, let's say in the USA, than the UK, having an American audience.

Charlie:
Why?

Joel:
Because, well, I feel like they are- both countries are Christian countries, as we know. However, I think the UK is slightly more progressive and is maybe, less people identify themselves as Christian, even though traditionally we're a Christian country, not many people are practising Christians. Whereas in the US, I think it's a lot more widespread. It is a lot more common, particularly in the southern states. They tend to be a lot more conservative. And because of that, I think it was a bit scarier, to- a bit more scary to come out to American people, because I thought, what are they going to think? They're going to hate me. They're going to unsubscribe. They're not going to follow me. They're going to tell me that I'm wrong. But that didn't happen. And it really surprised me. And even though lots of my followers identify as Christians or even conservative Christians, everyone was so lovely and so kind and supportive that it really surprised me. It was a stereotype I think I had in my head that perhaps doesn't exist, or maybe it does, but I was just lucky. Who knows?

Charlie:
I think we've got to remember that stereotypes aren't always true, even though they're interesting to talk about. And and generally we feel it. But subjective- subjectivity always trumps, I think.

Joel:
Yeah, definitely. I mean, other than the other factor that like, I think gay marriage is still illegal in certain states. And in the UK, it's been legal here for many years. So there's that difference as well where you're like, oh, I forget. I tend to think of America as being a very progressive westernised culture. And it is in many ways. But when it comes to issues of sexuality or LGBTQ+ stuff, it's maybe slightly behind the UK.

Charlie:
Is it fair to say that the coasts are more progressive and then the middle would be more conservative?

Joel:
Yeah, I think so. I think it- it works similarly in the UK. London tends to be more progressive than sort of the more rural parts. And yeah, likewise, California is a very sort-of progressive state and the same as New York and any of those cultural hotspots. Whereas the, sort of, more rural you go, yeah, the less diverse people's opinions are.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Ok, so that is the end of Part One, but as you are an academy or Premium Member, you have Part Two and Three to look forward to. We go on to the accents that Joel can do, and we continue to compare the differences between America and the UK, particularly to do with acting as Joel is trained in this profession. So, look forward to Part Two. Thank you very much for being an Academy or Premium Member. This episode was a sponsored one in the public version of Part One. So if you are interested in hearing what the sponsor was, then go ahead and listen to that. But just know that I took the sponsor out for you. And I appreciate you being a member in the Academy or the Premium podcast. And I'll see you in Part Two. Bye for now!

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Meet today's guest

Joel Wood

Joel is an actor, voiceover artist and YouTuber based in London.
He is one half of the online duo, Joel & Lia, who make weekly videos all about British and American culture.
Last year, they also launched a new UK tourism channel called Those Two Brits where they explore parts of the UK and vlog it for their viewers!

All three of Joel's YouTube Channels have been linked below so enjoy checking them out!
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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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About Your Teacher

Charlie Baxter

Teacher, Podcast Host, YouTuber
Charlie is the host and creator of The British English Podcast & Academy. He has also been an active YouTube English Teacher since 2016 but after seeing how many of his students wanted a more structured, carefully designed way to study he decided to create The British English Podcast Academy.

It focuses on British culture, informal expressions, accent and history that is all unique to the UK.

Charlie has spent 6000+ hours teaching intermediate-advanced students since 2014 privately on Skype and has seen a lot of different styles of learning and while he believes there will never be a single CORRECT way to improve your English there are a large number of methods that people use that do waste people's time and prevent them from improving quickly.

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